As a girl of ten, Delilah had run through her Uncle Nadav’s home dragging her little wooden doll behind her. Once she had knocked it against the wall and dented the surface of the narrow white-washed hallway. She had paused then, petrified, still holding the doll, Esther in her outstretched hand. Her uncle, hearing the worrisome bang of wood against something hard, looked up from his ever-present newspaper to see what had happened. When he noticed her doll, held at such an odd angle and his nieces wide-eyed fearful face staring at him he chuckled, not knowing whether she held up the doll to cover the offending spot or point to it and expose herself. Without skipping a beat, he set down his newspaper with care upon the coffee table and walked calmly back to his anxious niece. As he drew nearer she lowered the doll, which hung down to her ankles, almost as if it reached up to hold the little girl’s hand while sitting by her side. He reached out to pick at the chip in the white-wash, leaning over the beginning of a belly as he bent to examine the spot. Then he looked over at the little girl and her doll and smiled.
“No matter” he said. “It’s not as if this were a rental!” Uncle Nadav said with gusto. “I buy whatever I use!”
Delilah hadn’t really been sure what he meant at the time, but the moment had always stuck with her. Perhaps her recurrence in an unknown position within someone else’s life brought it back to her, or maybe just because of the narrow hallway splitting off to the left and to the right that reminded her of it now. Either way, she was mindful of the heavy suitcase pressing in on her hip bone as she navigated it between the walls and her legs.
There were shuffling sounds coming from the behind the closed door to the right, so looking back wards at it, Delilah turned to the left and looked in on a small, bedroom, still flooded with early evening light.
It’s pretty, she thought in utter amazement. There were new-white blankets stretched tautly over the bed and light yellow spread folded neatly across the foot of the bed. Lavender purple pillows rested against the bare wall behind the mattress, framing the queen sized bed in gallantly ladylike color.
I don’t understand, Delilah whispered to herself. But she set down her suitcase and sat on the edge of the bed anyways. She faced the window, looking out over the town. There wasn’t much to see from this angle. A wooden telephone pole, riddled with splinters and age spots stood erect in the middle of the window’s sky line. Beyond the pole, however, spread a vista of dunes and once more she smiled thinking of home. She allowed herself to relax into the mattress springs and let her hand drift to her side to feel the top of the smooth, un-pilled surface of the blankets. The soft, open weave allowed her fingers to slide in and out like a pulling on a knitted glove.
She heard a light click in the other room and turned her head around, expecting to see her sullen husband standing in the hall, looking in. There was no one there, no light turned on. She knew he must have turned off his light in the other room and gone to sleep.
The slowly descended over the dunes outside her window and still Delilah sat there looking out, thinking of her mother for the first time in years. He doesn’t know, she thought, that I lived here, in this town before. That my parents died here. She slid her fingers into the loose weave of the downy blanket again, in and out, stroking it softly and thought for the first time in years, of her mother. Her mother had stroked the top of Delilah’s head like that every night until her daughter fell asleep. How could I have forgotten about that Delilah thought. Somehow it felt good to have forgotten it and remembered again. Again the sense of comfort washed over her as it had before in the entry thinking about the sand dunes from home.
Once the darkness finally descended on the room, Delilah stood up, stiff from sitting so still for so long and rolling her shoulders through the discomfort she hadn’t noticed until now. Hungry, she thought then, I’m just a little hungry. Then I can go to bed.
So she padded quietly out into the hallway, careful to open the door, in case it squeaked. She tried to see out into the hallway, but as she searched the wall for light switched, realized she couldn’t find one in the dark. Turning back she felt along the edge of the door jamb inside her room for the telltale bump of an outlet cover and flicked up when she felt the plastic tip of the light switch. Blinking with the discomfort of unadjusted eyes, Delilah edged her way back to the living room. The light from the hallway was enough to illuminate the forms of the furniture, but the titles of the books on the shelf remained shadowed. If she wanted to, she could have searched the walls for another light switch. Surely there was one somewhere in the room. He clearly did most of his reading here. There was even a leather bound hardback stuffed between the cushions of the couch.
Instead, she tiptoed to the other side of the apartment, where the kitchen must be. Surprised once again by his cleanliness, she noted the lack of dishes in the sink, towels folded neatly across the oven’s handle. On the hooks above the sink hung two coffee mugs, a pot-holder and a clean sponge on a cord. Looking at the sparkling surfaces, Delilah was no longer hungry. She reached into a cupboard instead, looking for a glass for water. It was full of canned foods and dried fruit. The next cupboard only held bags of rice and flour. The next plates and bowls.
Well, I suppose I could drink from a bowl like a pet, if I have to she thought. She refrained from saying dog, refusing to even of herself that way, even in her mind. Not so low, yet, she thought. Delilah, giving up, dropped her arms to her sides, then saw the mugs above the sink once more and decided to use one. Reaching out and grasping the bottom of the remarkably heavy porcelain, Delilah wondered what would happen if she were to drop the mug and it shattered, spraying pieces down the sink and across the floor.
She was halfway tempted to throw it purposefully against the wall, just to find out, but as if out of habit she lowered it to the faucet, turned the handle and filled the mug halfway, then brought it to her lips and swallowed the whole thing down. Once more she had the urge to throw the mug down, hard, but slipped it smoothly under the running water and gulped, this time, leaving a bit of water in the mug.
She thought, briefly, of returning to the piles of books in the living room and discovering what it was he read so thoroughly that he didn’t require a television. In the living room, however, Delilah stored away the thought as she considered how boring the next day might be. In the next few steps she made it to the doorway to the split hallway. She could turn left, to her room, the light still on to guide her way. Or she could turn right.
She continued to stand in the doorway her fingers twining round the ring of the mug’s handle with nothing else for them to do, and turned right.
It was frightening, she thought, like a scary bedtime story, raising the hairs on the backs of her arms with anticipation of the inevitable roar of a monster, the creak of a floorboard alerting a sleeping beast. No floorboards creaked, though, and not a sound issued from her sock covered feet.
Delilah placed the palm of her hand on the surface of the door and pushed in lightly. The door stayed closed, as she expected. The palm of her hand brushed downward toward the knob of the door and closed around it, twisting slowly. First, rightward. That didn’t work, she couldn’t hear the turning of the latch. Then left. That worked. The latch slid inward allowing the door to glide inward to her husband’s bedroom.
She looked in from the door jamb. There was one large bed, solidly placed in the middle, one table beside it, a ray of light from the moon, and him, sleeping there as if he lived alone. His shoulder muscles rose up and paused once before falling slowly back into the mattress. She slipped off her sweater, leaving it to rest on the edge of his bed. Tenderly, she lowered herself onto the edge of his mattress.
Delilah stared down his hair, undone on the pillow. No one would ever guess how long it really was. In public he wore it in a tight little bun, tucked beneath a hat. But here it lay across the sheets, longer even than hers, looking so soft. She wanted to touch it. She wanted to reach out her fingers to make that single motion of affection. She was filled with this need; so full the air constricted in her lungs. The pressure of her chest pressed in on the air molecules which hung suspended unable to push themselves out and join the slightly dusty air floating peacefully throughout his bedroom. Instead, her fingers hovered, vibrating in the air above his hair. She sat like that, staring intently at this beautiful hair, crying, as she realized she couldn’t bring herself to reach out and feel it’s softness on this, their wedding night.